When Preparation Meets Opportunity: Old Lessons Are New Again

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Years ago in a relatively small town, a failed board election campaign was ultimately lost by the candidate I worked for, but it taught me some fundamental lessons about the political process. Even at that level, the lessons mirrored lessons I had learned years before as a failed candidate for high school student council president. These lessons seem even more important in the face of Voter ID laws, Citizens United, and McCutcheon v FEC. Money can be a menace, but ignorance of the process can be just as detrimental.

First Friends
After watching my friend unsuccessfully compete for the school board seat, he had apparently learned something the second time around when he decided to schedule a meeting with the head of the Ministerial Council.

What he did not practice the first time around is the law of first friends. The whole entourage thing that some celebs have going is also a necessity in electoral politics. If you cannot show that you have friends that will hang with you, it is hard to convince groups to support you. The first meeting with the Ministerial Council, my friend called at the last minute to ask if I would accompany him. He said frantically, “We’re meeting at a restaurant”.  They asked if I had anyone to bring with me. I panicked and said your name.” The meeting went well, but the pastors in attendance wondered aloud why our pastor was not a member of the council. Needless to say, the next meeting included our pastor.

The Power of People Knowing You
The naive may think that politics is a simple matter of getting your name on the ballot. “It’s who you know,” they may say. My friend knew how to get on the ballot. But, his miscalculation was what it took to get voters to select his name as opposed to others. “It’s not just about who you know, but it’s also about who knows you.” Another lesson, he learned the hard way.

The second time around, his campaign was top-to-bottom about creating a compelling narrative to inform constituents. He pulled his family along on trips to local churches, soul food restaurants, school PTA meetings, and more. He became a master of striking up conversations with strangers.

The Mechanism of Campaigning
My friend’s run at the school board post was much more methodical the second time around. I had learned the lessons of creating a campaign mechanism as a high school senior. I was well-known in my school of about 1000 students, but being well-known does not make a campaign that requires action.

One morning a couple of days prior to the election, I arrived to school and was greeted at the door by my two challengers each with their own tables handing out ice cream to the student body. It was if I had turned to stone as I watched voters streaming to their tables accepting treats. I have often reflected on that moment as my career has progressed. Never again will I rely on organic development when it matters. I will find ways to connect with people I do not know, and I will never underestimate the power of a small cup of ice cream.

The Reality of Politics
With the fluster around money, the truth can be lost that voters want to be informed and are capable of voting their conscience. It is true that many vote on ideals or out of resistance to a candidate. My friend’s bid for school board was fraught with expenses from filing fees to yard signs to personal donations to charities. Hosting fundraisers was a legitimate support activity. Yet, he was not the pick of the party. It was not just money he was up against. It was an institutional structure.

Even more striking is the change that happens when a voter or a political wannabe comprehends the political entity itself. More than just how a bill becomes a law, how certain individuals in certain positions balance power and protect individual liberties.

At the conclusion of his campaign, my friend notified me that the party so admired his campaign that he had been appointed to another non-elected board position in the city. On that board, he rose to represent the city in national venues.

My failed student council bid resulted in focused work on the class level, and I was invited by the class president to get involved. Most notably, I worked to craft an awareness campaign for a multi-campus radio competition.

From where I sit, both these failures turned successes were accomplished through knowledge of the system, who knew us, but also through someone who was willing to appoint us to important tasks. Our requirement was to make ourselves a target for appointment.

Serving Our Veterans: Public vs Private (Part 2 of 4)

Part one of this series analyzed the history of the Bonus Expeditionary Force (BEF) and their actions during the Great Depression, and how its influence dramatically affected how the US government treated its brave men and women that go to war. In this second installment, I will take a  look at a key tension that has persisted from the days of the BEF up until our modern era. It is important to consider the historical context of these tensions when attempting to understand how we serve our nations military veterans.

Public vs Private
Public vs Private

The Public vs Private tension continues to work its way into social welfare discourse in the 21st century, but during the 1930’s it was just as rampant. In regard to social work, public represents services administered by a public agency, while private represents services provided through private charities, individuals, and groups. Previous to the Great Depression, by and large the aid and relief services were provided by private charities and local governments. Once the Great Depression hit, these private agencies were stressed to serve the needs of the millions who were suffering and starving; many of the available services at the time could not even shelter the homeless or feed the hungry.

Before the 1930’s and the Great Depression, issues like poverty and unemployment were primarily viewed as problems with the individual, rather than problems with the environment that individual lived within. Through that perspective, the common approach of the time was to address individual problems through private charity. With millions beginning to suffer from the Great Depression, the perception of social welfare began to shift. More people started to see that issues surrounding poverty had to be elevated to a public issue rather than maintain the narrow scope of a private or individual issue.

During this paradigm shift, it became evident to social workers and policy makers that the rising needs brought on by the Great Depression could only be addressed by public agencies . “Voluntary charity simply could not cope with the situation; only public agencies could deal with the collapse of the economy, mass unemployment, and widespread destitution”(Trattner, 1999) . As a result of this change in perspective, we created the U.S. Social Security Act of 1935, among several other programs. Public assistance worked its way into social policy and between 1929-1940 the number of persons on assistance or work- relief programs rose from less than a million to 9 million.

This tension between Public vs Private assistance took time to play out, and it had a direct impact on the wait time that veterans in the 1930’s seeking their Bonus had to endure. This was due to the observable conflict among political powers during the Bonus March era. President Hoover was adamant that assistance to the needy had no place for the public sector for a variety of reasons: “[f]or him, relief was a moral, not merely an economic, matter; private charity (such as he had distributed in war-ravaged Europe) was fine, but public aid, especially from national government, was a ‘dole’” (Trattner, 1999). As a result of these conflicts, it created several barriers to passing legislation that supported public assistance.

Subsequently, although the Great Depression proved that public agencies were the only group capable of providing adequate aid to those in need, tension existed and continues to this day. Unfortunately, the veterans of the Bonus Expeditionary Force just happened to be caught in the middle of all of it. Present day, those who are in need of services, including veterans, get caught in tension between the power sources who advocate for Public vs Private assistance.

In the next two parts of this series, I will be analyzing Micro vs. Macro and the long term implications of these paradigm shifts. Please stay tuned.

References:

Fisher, J. (1980). Social Work: The thirties as a watershed. In J. Fisher, The response of social work to the Depression (pp. 233-241). Boston, MA: G.K. Hall & Co.

Gordon, L. (1992). Social insurance and public assistance: The influence of gender in welfare thought in the United States, 1890-1935. American Historical Review 97, 19-54.

Trattner, W.I. (1999). Depression and a New Deal. In W. I. Trattner, From poor law to welfare state: A history of social welfare in America (6th ed.) (pp. 273-303). New York: Free Press.

GOP Hunger Games: SNAP Benefits Cut for Millions of Americans

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The Hunger Games

Americans have been forced to endure the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, sequestration which sliced funding for important government programs, and a government shutdown that cost 24 Billion dollars. As of today, the bill expanding SNAP benefits to help Americans through the economic recovery has expired. After a failed attempt by Republicans to end the SNAP program earlier this year, there was no expectation Republicans would take any measure to prevent these cuts to SNAP from happening. It seems the GOP is hell bent on balancing the national debt on the backs of the poor, and the #GOPHungerGames hashtag is evidence to support this belief.

In case you have never seen the hit movie, Hunger Games, starring Jennifer Lawrence, the movie is about the rich using poverty and starvation to control rebellion within their society. In the movie, the Hunger Games is a competition devised by the powers to be to entertain the rich, but it is also used to control and give hope to the poor communities. Among the prizes for the winner of the Hunger Games competition is a monthly food allowance which sounds strangely familiar to SNAP benefits.

According to CBS News,

The USDA said the cuts to food stamps will leave people on food stamps an average of $1.40 to spend on each meal. But the cuts that went into effect Friday may not be the end of the misery for those on SNAP.

The House of Representatives wants to cut up to an additional $40 billion from the food stamp program as part of the pending farm bill. House and Senate negotiators have to meet later this year to try to come to an agreement on just how deep the cuts will be for SNAP.

Food stamps are the government’s biggest nutrition-assistance program for low-income people and, along with federal unemployment benefits, a key support system for the most vulnerable Americans.

What will happen to the children and families being affected by the current cuts and potential future cuts? According to current studies, 1 out of every 7 Americans will be affected. Why is there such a focus on cutting social welfare programs, but corporate welfare remains untouched?


Government Shutdown Is Over But What Does It Mean

After 16 days of a government shutdown, the House finally allowed a vote which resulted in the passage of bi-partisan bill to reopen the government and avoid default. The 285 votes that decided to reopen the government was comprised of a unified democratic block and several moderate Republicans. However, the 144 votes to keep the government closed and not raise the debt limit were all cast by Tea party Republicans.

Since the government shutdown begin, Democrats and Senate Republicans have openly advocated for the suspension the Haster Rule which requires the “majority of the majority support” before a bill can be brought to the floor for an up or down vote. However, Speaker Boehner has refused to suspend the rule for 16 days stating there were not enough votes to pass a clean continuing resolutions to reopen the government and raise the debt limit. What was the purpose of keeping the government shutdown for 16 days, furloughed workers, and denying needed services to vulnerable populations? What did House Republicans get from shutting down the government other than an opportunity to do it again in another 90 days?  Not only could Speaker Boehner have ended this crisis weeks ago, he could have possibly prevented a government shutdown all together by allowing a vote on a clean resolution or on a budget that has already been passed by the Senate.

According to statement released by Speaker Boehner on Wednesday hours before the default deadline, he stated:

“Blocking the bipartisan agreement reached today by the members of the Senate will not be a tactic for us. In addition to the risk of default, doing so would open the door for the Democratic majority in Washington to raise taxes again on the American people and undo the spending caps in the 2011 Budget Control Act without replacing them with better spending cuts,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in statement Wednesday afternoon. “Our drive to stop the train wreck that is the president’s health care law will continue. We will rely on aggressive oversight that highlights the law’s massive flaws and smart, targeted strikes that split the legislative coalition the president has relied upon to force his health care law on the American people.”  Read Full

In the deal to reopen the government, the agreed upon terms will fund the government until January 15th 2014 and extend the debt ceiling until February 7, 2014. Republicans also added a provision to be instituted into Obamacare which would require income verification prior to receiving a federally subsidized health care plan. President Obama gave a speech to address reopening the government as well as reestablishing the trust of the American People. Prior to leaving the briefing room, a reporter shouted a question at President Obama asking if we will be back at another government shutdown in 90 days. His answer was simply, “No”.

View the President Speech below:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAnRik_DTzA[/youtube]

Lawmakers Arrested: March on Washington for Immigration Reform

With the government shutdown, gun control, and the roll out of Obamacare, immigration reform appears to have taken a back seat on the minds of lawmakers. What was once thought to be a foregone conclusion after the 2012 Presidential Election, many Americans believed immigration reform would receive a swift passage into law. Unfortunately, House Republicans have continued to use stall tactics, investigative committees, and prevention of a vote to keep pending immigration reform legislation from becoming law. On October 8, 2013, approximately 10,000 protesters ascended on the US Capitol to demand immigration reform which resulted in several dozen arrest that included 8 members of Congress.

According to MSNBC News,

Democratic members Charles Rangel, Al Green, Jan Schakowsky, Luis Gutierrez, John Lewis, Raul Grijalva, Joe Crowley and Keith Ellison were removed in plastic cuffs after blocking a street as onlookers cheered “Si se puede!”

The rally, organized by a coalition of immigrant rights groups and labor unions, featured speeches from dozens of politicians. Among the speakers was Nancy Pelosi, who recently joined Democratic members in introducing a new comprehensive immigration bill modeled on the Senate’s already-passed proposal. Many attendees carried signs or chanted slogans encouraging the House to hold a vote on the bipartisan Senate bill, which would have provided an earned path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants over a 13 year period.  Read Full Article


https://twitter.com/repjohnlewis/status/387686060446076928/

On October 5, 2013, a National Day of Dignity was held in cities around the country with immigrant communities, faith leaders, labor organizations and more. The rallies were held to call on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform now. Republicans promised to work with Democrats in order to create a plan for comprehensive immigration reform. The Senate did its job and passed a bill that wasn’t perfect. However, it was a start towards removing barriers for some like the Dreamers who are caught in an undocumented limbo.

We are marching for commonsense immigration reform with legalization that leads to citizenship, legal immigration rules that promote family unity and protect worker rights, an end to the destruction of our families through deportations, and a halt to the rush towards massive wasteful spending on unneeded border militarization and for profit immigrant detention prisons.

We are marching for an America where our hard work is honored; where our many contributions to the nation are respected and where our families and children can dream of building lives of dignity and without fear. We cannot let the continued failures of Washington result in more families torn apart, more abusive employers and poverty wages, more children who cannot dream. October Immigration


Photo Credit: Courtesy of Yahoo News

Tea Party Dominance Causes Government Shutdown

government shutdownIt is shortly after midnight, and a government shutdown is now reality. Republicans have refused to pass a budget or continuing resolution unless Democrats agree to defund or further limit Obamacare which has led to the first government shutdown in 17 years. It appears Texas Senator, Ted Cruz, is leading tea party Republicans in their disdain for Obamacare. However, their efforts have done nothing to prevent full implementation of the Affordable Care Act which also went into effect at 12:01AM.

Hours before the government shutdown, President Obama signed a bill that would ensure military personnel would not be affected. Unfortunately, the government shutdown will affect over 800,000 federal employees who are not considered essential employees. President Obama recorded a video message to our troops which can be viewed below:

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/75834646[/vimeo]

You can read the full text of the President’s speech below:

Hi everybody. As President and your Commander in Chief, I’ve worked to make sure you have the strategy, the resources and the support you need to complete the missions our nation asks of you. Every time, you’ve met your responsibilities and performed with extraordinary professionalism, skill and courage. Unfortunately, Congress has not fulfilled its responsibility. It has failed to pass a budget and, as a result, much of our government must now shut down until Congress funds it again. Secretary Hagel, General Dempsey and your commanders will have more information about how this affects you and your families. Today, I want to speak directly to you about what happens next. Those of you in uniform will remain on your normal duty status. The threats to our national security have not changed, and we need you to be ready for any contingency. Ongoing military operations—like our efforts in Afghanistan—will continue. If you’re serving in harm’s way, we’re going to make sure you have what you need to succeed in your missions. Congress has passed, and I am signing into law, legislation to make sure you get your paychecks on time. And we’ll continue working to address any impact this shutdown has on you and your families.

To all our DOD civilians—I know the days ahead could mean more uncertainty, including possible furloughs. And I know this comes on top of the furloughs that many of you already endured this summer. You and your families deserve better than the dysfunction we’re seeing in Congress. Your talents and dedication help keep our military the best in the world. That’s why I’ll keep working to get Congress to reopen our government and get you back to work as soon as possible.

Finally, I know this shutdown occurs against the background of broader changes. The war in Iraq is over. The war in Afghanistan will end next year. After more than a decade of unprecedented operations, we are moving off a war footing. Yes, our military will be leaner, and as a nation we face difficult budget choices going forward.

But here’s what I want you to know. I’m going to keep fighting to get rid of those across-the-board budget cuts—the sequester—which are hurting our military and our economy. We need a responsible approach that deals with our fiscal challenges and keeps our military and our economy strong. And I’m going to make sure you stay the greatest military in the world—bar none. That’s what I’m fighting for. That’s what you and your families deserve.

On behalf of the American people, thank you for your service, which keeps us free. And thank you for your sacrifice, which keeps our nation – and our military – the greatest force for freedom that the world has ever known. God bless you and your families, and God bless the United States of America.

The Lifeline Program: Affordable Phone Services for Poor Families

Affordable Phone Services for the PoorThe middle class is shrinking and more people are struggling to stay above the poverty level than ever before. The number of people with residential phone services are declining in poor neighborhoods increasing a reliance on mobile cell phone service. What happens when people who are struggling to obtain the basic needs such as food, water, and shelter do in cases of an emergency without the ability to call for help? The government has developed a lifeline to help keep families connect to the outside world who can not afford phone services.

Cell phone services and residential phone services may be an expense that the poor may sacrifice in order to meet their basic needs. There is a governmental program that is design to help struggling Americans obtain phone service in certain situations. The program is focused on helping poor people retain their phones when they might be tempted to go without it in times leaving them more vulnerable in an emergency situation.

Why Go Through the Trouble?

The idea is that it’s far too dangerous for families to have no connection with the outside world. If they get cut off for some reason, such as due to a snowstorm, they will be unable to get any help. Any such emergency that occurs in a neighborhood needs people to report it in order for the emergency services to become involved. Keeping families connected through phones during a national emergency is in the government’s best interests too.

Lifeline Program Overview

The government assisted service is called the Lifeline Program. It provides discounts on either a traditional landline or a wireless telephone service to those that may qualify. The discounts tend to average at around 9 dollars a month, though it could be substantially more based on the particular state and the individual’s particular situation.  Only one Lifeline service may be distributed per household as either a wireless or a landline service. Some versions of these programs may offer free phones through the cellphone program as well.

Qualifications

The program is available to anyone in the United States, and even those in territories or on Tribal land. In order to qualify, you have to be at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. Those that participate in one of a few different government programs may be eligible as well. These programs include Medicaid, Food Stamps, SSI, Section 8 housing, the Free Lunch Program, Tribal programs, Head Start, Energy Assistance, and various local state assistance programs.

Applying

In order to apply and get started with the program, eligible people should look for companies that participate in the program that are near to them.  There are various tools available online that will help you find examples of such companies. You can then contact them to apply to get into the program.

Before you apply, it’s a good idea to find out more about the programs in your area and the eligibility requirements. But overall, the Lifeline program will help save lives for people who may opt out of phone services because eating and shelter was more important. Obviously, food and housing is more important, but today a phone really isn’t an optional resource either.

Ethical Concerns When Using Social Media


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In the latest Iron Man, Tony Stark played by Robert Downey Jr., always has the best and newest technology gadgets out there. Even though Iron Man is a fictional movie, the use of technology and social media is revolutionizing how we communicate, process information, and problem solve local and global problems. However, many helping professions struggle to use the basic technology which require minimal skills in order to enhance our communications with each other. Until we master the basics, we will have difficulty intertwining advanced technologies into practice.

With the uber-trendy social networking sites’ (SNS) captivation of Internet users around the world, those in the helping profession are having a hard time keeping up with the latest and greatest in this season’s social media tools before they become outdated.

While many are quick to claim that this lag is due to an “old-school” mentality of avoiding 21st century technology, there are several factors that social workers, non-profits, and government agencies have to take into consideration before they can pick up the new toy on the playground. Private entities that are not working with vulnerable or at-risk populations have the perceived luxury of being more “lax” in their social media policies – forgoing concerns of confidentiality, cultural competency, or liability.

Public organizations are often times held to different legal and ethical policies that require much more detail and time spent towards considering where social media can help service provision and clinical work.

Social networking sites are intended to provide quick access and instant information dissemination to a specific group of people. So how do organizations working with vulnerable populations balance justified ethical concerns with the incredible potential of social media? While I may not have the magic answer, a well-developed social media policy is a good place to start.

To help anticipate all possible outcomes of social media use – both good and bad – social workers need to make sure that if they are planning (and able) to use these tools in their practice, they have a strong, carefully thought out social media policy to guide them. Especially considering that there are resources and examples out there of how caseworkers and clinicians can correctly use social media in their work, an effective social media policy can develop a “treatment plan” for using these tools while also developing a “safety plan” for when issues arise.

Whether you are in a government agency, a nonprofit, or a private practice, a social media strategy that outlines your specific goals of using the tool, your disclosure and participation policies, and how the tools will be used will help address ethical and legal considerations while also creating a foundation for keeping pace with evolving social media trends.

[gview file=”https://swhelper.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/WebinarSocialMediaPolicy-1.doc”]

Wealth Inequality: Is the Government Controlled By The Elite?

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Public policy is simply an attempt by the government to address a public issue, and how issues become public policy issues are up for debate.  Many people feel that the political world is made up of Private Corporations buying politicians in order for them to promote corporate interest above the interest of the American people. Many believe this power imbalance towards the elite has skewed wealth inequality further than what most Americans actually believe it is. How is this possible?

According to Leighninger and Popple in Social Work, Social Welfare, and American Society, the public choice model represents the vast majority of political participants such as voters, candidates, legislators, interest groups, parties, campaigners, and bureaucracies all are seeking their own goals of interest.

They further explain that the interests of politicians and bureaucrats are to win elections. However, the interests of voters and interest groups are to know what policies affect them and their lives. This seems to create an intricate dance for the politician balancing his/her interest against the voters and other groups who put them in elected office for the protection of their respective interests.

Leighninger and Popple also explain the existence of an elitist model that influences the political process. Proponents of this view assert that public policy and social issues are being crafted at the hands of a small group of people, also known as, the one percent. This model is comprised of the wealthiest one percent of citizens, and it suggests the pyramid of power where policies are made at the top will have a trickle down effect rather than competing groups debating policy requiring mutual compromise and gains.

The attached video is about a study conducted by a Harvard Economist on what the public’s perception of wealth distribution in America looks like. The study also asked over 5,000 participants what wealth distribution in America should look like, but what Americans were not prepared for was what wealth distribution in America actually is.

References:
Popple, P. R., & Leighninger, L. (2008). The Policy Based Profession (4th ed., pp. 122-123). Boston: Person Education Inc.

Facebook Admits Data Breach of 6 Million Users

facebookThe world’s biggest social networking site has admitted a year long data beach of more than 6 million users involving their phone numbers and email addresses. Last Friday, Facebook divulged to the public that the data breach has been ongoing for more than a year.

The data leak was said to have been caused by a technical malfunction in their archive of contact information belonging to their users. Users of the social networking site who downloaded the contact data of their friends acquired other information which was meant to be private.

The Facebook security team fixed the bug last week after they were notified of the technical problem. Although, the data breach has been ongoing for more than a year, Facebook did not publicly announce the glitch until 21st of June last week.

Facebook posted on their blog that they currently have no evidence to suggest the bug has been exploited maliciously,  they have not received any complaints from users nor have they seen any anomalous behavior to suggest any wrongdoing.

Recently, many Internet users have been baffled by the disclosures of major Internet companies in USA who have revealed to the public about the requests by the U.S Government to collect their data. This latest development however is reported to have caused uncertainty about privacy using social networking sites. It is reported that the U.S government has been pressurizing social networking companies to give them the details of their users. The surveillance program with the name PRISM has caused a lot of disinterest in social networking sites including Facebook, Google Plus, Microsoft Outlook, Yahoo and many others.

According to Raw Story:

A Facebook spokesman said the delay was due to company procedure stipulating that regulators and affected users be notified before making a public announcement.

“We currently have no evidence that this bug has been exploited maliciously and we have not received complaints from users or seen anomalous behavior on the tool or site to suggest wrongdoing,” Facebook said on its blog. Read Full Article

 

 

Child Care Subsidies: Why Is This A Federal Program

childcarehistoryThe federal government has supports in place intended to assist low income families to obtain the necessary child care, so the parent or parents may join or remain in the workforce.  This support comes in the form of child care subsidies or vouchers, and the programs are implemented in varying ways in each state. In many families with children, the household budget sheet requires both parents to work in order to sustain the family.  The expenditure for childcare as a percentage of household income can exceed the cost of housing for median income families.  In low income households, this creates and untenable situation where salaries from work do not cover monthly obligations.

The federal government has been assisting needy families with child care expenses since the nineteen thirties during the Great Depression. During this era, a need was recognized for there to be a safe place for poverty-stricken children to go during the day.  A place to serve as a relief to their own situation that would provide food, structure, and instruction; that would also serve to benefit the parents by allowing them time to work, search for work, or learn skills that might improve their lot in life.  These nursery school programs were developed by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) and provided services to participants in home relief, the predecessor to Aid to Families with Dependent Children.  Once the acute need of the Great Depression dissipated, so did the interest in funding for the program.  The FERA was created in 1932 and was replaced in 1935 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

World War II brought a renewed interest in providing out of home care to children.  This time as a means to allow women to join the workforce to provide much needed labor in war related industry.  This was funded in two ways.  First by the Lanham Act, which was directed mostly to areas of California where there was a high density of war related industry.  The remainder of the Works Progress Administration still in place from the Depression, was again set in motion to provide care centers for use by any working mother, not just those of low economic means as in previous use.  Once again, once the overwhelming cause of the need declined with the end of the war, funding to these programs ended.  In later decades, studies of what is most beneficial to children, simple care and supervision or actual structured lessons were conducted.  They discovered that preschool-aged children benefit from structured lessons with educational goals.  As a part of President Johnson’s Great Society legislation, a new program was initiated that would merge the qualities of childcare with education.  The program was called Head Start.  Other funding for childcare was provided for families participating in AFDC.

The Federal government has provided funding for child care subsidies since the time of Johnson, but popularity of these programs has often been a source of conflict among legislators due to its expense.   In 1971, President Nixon vetoed the Comprehensive Child Development Act.  This Act would have provided federal funding to make available child care to all children, regardless of income, as an intrinsic right.  Though Nixon backed the idea of child care supports from the Federal government, he decided that it was not the time for the government to make such a sizeable commitment.  1974’s Title XX provided funding for a number of programs, including child care subsidy.  These funds were to be used at the discretion of the state and by the early 80’s most funds were being directed to more urgent needs. During the seventies and eighties, there was a cultural shift.  Where once it was expected that one parent stay home to provide family care, now it was becoming the expectation that both parents work to financially support the family.  This shift in ideology prompted a shift in federal child care policy, which will be discussed in the next installment.

For further reading:

A Brief History of Federal Financing of Child Care in the United States
Office of Child Care
Protecting the Safety Net in Tough Times: Lessons from the States
Child Care Subsidies

Housing in Blue, Homeless in Red

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Today public housing continues to exist, but eligibility and aid depends on one’s location. While the federal government has developed nation-wide programs, states and local agencies provide the actual housing to their citizens. A state must follow the federal guidelines but can determine how much aid it receives, and each state can set some of its own guidelines in terms of preferential treatment and eligibility. All this means that one’s state of choice, particularly the choice between a red or blue state, will determine his or her level of aid in terms of public housing.

Before looking at the differences at state level though, let’s cover today’s policies. The basic principles of public housing today have stayed consistent with the policies beginning in the 1960’s when civil rights were first being incorporated. In 1974, Nixon created the Section 8 Rental Assistance Program, which is still very much alive today. The program provides rental certificates for low-income families to use to pay a portion of their rent on privately owned units. This was a change from the past policies because it allowed low-income families to break away from large public housing facilities and instead lease private units. At the time, families were expected to pay 30 percent of their income toward rent and utilities and then HUD, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, would cover the rest as long as it was under the maximum aid level. It seemed that the 1960’s brought positive changes, but in the 1980’s housing programs were dramatically cut. The 1990’s saw a huge increase in the need for homeless shelters due to the lack of public housing. Today, while subsidizing of housing projects has continued to decline, more rent vouchers and Section 8 certificates are being handed out each year.

But how have the changes come about in different states? Massachusetts is viewed as the prime example of a blue state and has one of the best public housing programs in the country. This is generally because Massachusetts applies for and accepts a great deal of federal funding. In addition, the state has low qualifications in terms of who can receive public housing assistance. For example, in order to qualify for the Section 8 Rental Assistance Voucher, one must simply show records of being a good tenant in the past and take in 80% or less than the median income in their community. Statewide, the income limit to qualify as a single person is $45,100 annually.

Texas, on the other hand, is viewed as a strong red state and is not highly prized for its public housing program. In fact, the state accepts much less federal aid and therefore has a much smaller public housing budget than Massachusetts, despite having a population four times the size of MA. Additionally, a single person must take in $33,650 annually or less in Texas to qualify for public housing aid. While the eligibility is calculated based upon the state’s median income; there are large gaps in terms of eligibility between states. In addition, the private sector in Texas has refused to aid low-income families in terms of housing. This means that citizens must rely solely on public sector housing, much of which is in poor condition as, in general, it has not been updated since the 1930s.

While in many eyes the Texas system is flawed, those in opposition to public housing would support Texas over Massachusetts. Many believe that public housing gives people a crutch and allows them to take unearned money. Others argue that public housing should have a time limit so that people have an incentive to work hard and get off the aid. While one can hope that one day public housing programs will no longer be needed, it should be not out of lack of funding or desire, but instead because it is no longer needed.  Until that day though, housing is a basic need that needs to be met regardless of race or income.

While public housing is a federally supported program, it is run by the local public housing authorities. It is up to the PHAs to determine how their public housing system will be run. The federal government applies a base funding to all, but when more funds are available, states can apply for more money. This often means, out of each state’s own choice and differences in opinions about public aid, that blue states will have larger public housing budgets than red states. Therefore, it is clear that a low-income family is much better off living in a blue state.

The right to a quality home should not, however, depend on one’s exact location within the United States. As a social worker, it shall be one’s duty to advocate for adequate housing for all, as shelter is a basic human need. For, as Cohn said, “this country has room for different approaches to policy. It doesn’t have room for different standards of human decency.”

References

Cohn, J. (2012, October 25). Blue states are from Scandinavia, red states are from Guatemala: a theory

of a divided nation. The New Republic. Retrieved from http://www.newrepublic.com/article/politics/magazine/108185/blue-states-are-scandinavia-red-states-are-guatemala#

HUD. (n.d.). Housing choice vouchers fact sheet. Retrieved from

Mass Resources. (n.d.). Public housing. Retrieved from http://www.massresources.org/public-housing.html

Texas Housing. (n.d.). Public housing in Texas. Retrieved from

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